‘Reach for the stars’

Back-to-School Bash offers motivation for Tonalea-Red Lake youth

Barber uses pink electric razor to trim boy's bangs

Navajo Times | Krista Allen
Joseph Buck III, 13, gets a haircut by hairdresser Alyssa Peaches of Studio 11 Hair Salon, during an inaugural Back-to-School Bash on Aug. 12.


Speaking outside the Tonalea Senior Center on Saturday morning, not far from where he grew up, Vice President Jonathan Nez told the youth to believe in their infinite potential.

“Reach for the stars,” Nez said as he stood before a small group at the inaugural Back-to-School Bash that was organized by the chapter’s summer youth workers, “and never give up on what you want in life.”

But most importantly, Nez said, never give up on life.

Football flies through air as schoolboys chase it.

Navajo Times | Krista Allen
Vice President Jonathan Nez throws a football to youngsters in a game of flag football during an inaugural Back-to-School Bash on Aug. 12 in Tonalea-Red Lake, Arizona. Event-goers enjoyed games and food. Students heading back to school received school supplies.

Nez was raised in Shonto, Arizona, a small community about 29 miles northeast of here, on his grandparents’ sheep ranch and rode bikes with his friends.

“I grew up in Shonto and I went to school in Kayenta,” he explained. “I grew up riding bikes and going to school from August to May. After May, I’d go to sheep camp. Sometimes I wanted to hang out with my bros in Kayenta and ride our bikes around. But my mom would always say, ‘You’re going to Grandma’s (house) for three months.’ I didn’t want to go.”

Even though he is from a small community, Nez says, he never limited himself and did not let self-doubt hold him captive.
“Never make limits on yourselves,” Nez said.

Everyone ought to live by that, said Marteisha Sims, 17, from Cow Springs, Arizona, who was motivated by Nez’s inspirational speech.

“With that being said, that puts a new perspective on everything in life,” said Sims, who is a freshman at Diné College where she is studying music.

Like Nez, Sims is from a small community, and she is not afraid to admit it.

“That (Nez’s message) bumped (my perspective) even higher, and to do better things in this life,” Sims said in an interview. “I want to go out there and say I come from a small community called Cow Springs. Yes, you can do bigger things in life, no matter where you live and what your environment is.”

But that will take some time. And that is why the Back-to-School Bash materialized, according to Sims.

“The more we do this, (the more) the children will understand what we’re trying to do as they grow older,” Sims said.

Woman leans over girl, holding volleyball.

Navajo Times | Krista Allen
A woman helps a child serve a volleyball during an inaugural Back-to-School Bash on Aug. 12 in Tonalea-Red Lake, Arizona. Event-goers enjoyed games and food. Students heading back to school received school supplies.

Nearly 200 people attended the event where school supplies such as folders, rulers and pencils were given to each child heading back to school, through the chapter’s Youth Fund Enrichment Program.

Hairdressers from Studio 11 Hair Salon in Tuba City also provided free haircuts.

“Our whole message is to prioritize education, especially for our youth,” said Dearlynn Crank, a summer youth worker. “Just to encourage them to continue education, and that education is the key to success.”

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Categories: Education

About Author

Krista Allen

Krista Allen is a former reporter for The Navajo Times who is now a freelance writer.